Age Scotland's research reveals energy bills are the number one concern for older people who feel financially squeezed
A charity is concerned that the growing energy crisis could plunge thousands more older, vulnerable customers into fuel poverty this winter.
Age Scotland has warned that many older people in Scotland face a very long, harsh winter, with energy prices soaring as well as the cost of food and other essentials.
Its new research has found that energy bills are the biggest concern for more than eight in 10 people over 50 who feel financially squeezed.
Age Scotland and ScotInform found that more than a quarter of respondents felt financially squeezed, rising to more than a third in their 50s (36%) and 33% in their 60s.
They questioned more than 3,500 people from every area of Scotland earlier this year as part of their Big Survey.
Two thirds of respondents (67%) said that lockdown restrictions resulted in higher home energy bills over the past year. Almost four in 10 (38%) said they had taken measures to use less energy as a result, while 11% had switched supplier.
Many older people are still significantly limiting their social interactions, while many day centres, lunch clubs, and other groups remain closed.
Fuel poverty already affects one in three older households (over 222,000) in Scotland, raising concerns that increased energy bills will make life much harder for them to stay warm and well this winter.
The charity is urging older people to ensure they are not missing out on benefits as we go into winter, such as Cold Weather Payments and Winter Fuel Allowance. Older and more vulnerable customers should also ensure they are on the Priority Services Register with their energy supplier in case of power cuts.
Brian Sloan, chief executive of Age Scotland, said: “The growing energy crisis and rising cost of living look set to make this a very long, harsh winter for older and vulnerable people in Scotland. Thousands more could be plunged into fuel poverty, and this could seriously put their health at risk.
“Our latest research reveals that energy bills are the number one concern for older people who feel financially squeezed. The lockdown has only made this worse, with two thirds already facing higher home energy bills and many taking steps to cut down their energy use.
“It’s already completely unacceptable that one in three pensioner households is living in fuel poverty. This is only likely to rise in the coming months, with many more struggling to pay for essentials such as food and heating.
“Far too many are already putting themselves at risk of health problems, such as heart disease, respiratory or circulatory diseases, because they can’t afford to heat their homes properly. This could lead to more winter deaths and hospital admissions, putting additional strain on our over-stretched NHS.
“We urgently need the UK and Scottish Governments to work with energy suppliers and make sure that vulnerable customers are a priority.
“We’re also encouraging all older people to make sure they are claiming all the support they are entitled to as we go into winter. Tens of thousands of pensioners are missing out on Pension Credit, which also entitles them to Cold Weather Payments and other benefits. People can also check with their supplier if they are eligible for Warm Home Discounts, help with insulation or draft proofing.”
Any older person can call the free Age Scotland helpline for advice and a benefits check on 0800 12 44 222.